Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

two friends on a flight

On my flight home from Virginia, I sat between two men from Detroit to Chicago. On my left, John and I got off to a great start. We started talking and I found out about his family and a daughter who might be looking at attending Hope College. We ended up really encouraging one another. I enjoyed his stories of his church, travels, and family.

I turned to my right about halfway through the flight and (I forget his name) was equally friendly, but of a quite different sort. He lives not far from where I work at Sullivan’s and so we talked about the bars in the area and where he goes each day of the week. He manages the Marriott hotel, and because he’s a bachelor, he makes the rounds as far as restaurants go. After two gin and tonics, he was sure talkative and anxious to tell me about his exciting life, moving from Hawaii to Detroit to Oklahoma to Chicago and soon to California.

It surprised me how easy it was to transition from the two gentlemen. It reminded me of my father, actually. I think some have said he could make conversation with a deaf mute. It really just takes a measure of perception and a genuine interest. .. Paul said he chose Timothy because he, “took a genuine interest in the affairs of others.” I was almost worried that John would think me a hypocrite because I could talk about bars and cigars (nevermind that my first-hand experience belies my vocabulary).

Well, my friend on the right started talking about the war after I asked him if he voted in the election. Like I said, his tongue was pretty loose, so he was talking about how foolish it was that America had to solve everyone’s problems. John overheard and became very much involved and before long, I was hearing two very sad stories.

John quickly defended the integrity of the armed forces and shared a story of a best friend’s son, a Marine, who was killed in Afghanistan after being there for only a month. He described the honorable funeral and how it’d made an impact on him. I could have imagined it, but I think he was near tears.

My friend on the right was not to be outdone in story telling. He spoke of the craziness of some soldiers after they return from the war. Then he started telling the story of Oklahoma City…where Timothy McVeigh, a well-trained and well-mannered soldier, committed such a heinous crime. "My friend’s father was in the building that day," he told me. His father was killed that day in the hands of Mr. McVeigh and I can’t imagine the roller coaster it’s been for him to understand why.

I was caught in the middle of this conversation and interjected only that my faith is what truly sustains – amidst the wars, chaos, and uncertainties. But, I almost felt the words fall to the ground as I said them. How should I speak to this man who has experienced such loss?

Amadeus captures death through the life of Salieri. At one point he was so angry because God had allowed Mozart first divine inspiration in the form of music and second death, whereas Salieri, suffering from his self-proclaimed mediocrity, was forced to live a long life without divine inspiration whatsoever.

They say, "food for thought." I think this could be a steak. But I must move on to new things!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Santo Domingo - the first city of the New World

Now I know why Columbus sailed the ocean blue... The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place with beautiful people!

Sadly, I haven't been able to experience as much of their culture as I have their style of business meeting, conversation, and travel from hotel to office. It's been the definition of a "business trip" ... although in the past I'm sure I have always assumed that people who take business trips are nearly always fooling you. I had it in my mind that business trips were almost created for the joy of travel, because it's always been so exotic for me. Ay! This is not the case - as Rody would say, "work is work."

I have learned too much to fit in my suitcase for the trip home. I am tired, overwhelmed, excited, and anxious.... this planning for such a thing as a global conference has to be done by those with supernatural powers - I really can't believe all that goes into it! As in all my (limited) travels, I have found the people to be lovely and most wonderful! Again, even if only on the business side, I am seeing the Lord's creativity alive in the work of His hands.

I haven't been able to process everything, nor do I expect myself to before I get back to Chicago this weekend. It's amazing to think that after May I could actually get a job that would make this my life - traveling, meetings, planes, taxis. And all this makes me think. ... Just think and consider just how it is God made me - for what purpose. I know that He is preparing my spirit for the work to come, but I also need to think about how He made me to be in community. What does community look like for those that traipse about the global countryside, stopping here and there?

How perfect to be right now reading in my devotions about the "first" missionary journey in Acts when Paul was sent out after prayer, fasting, and laying on of hands. I say "first" because I fully believe in God's missional heart from the very beginning....

But, truly the community and power of being sent is beautiful and unmistakable throughout the Scriptures. .. Oh! This is a topic for another day - I do feel a bit scattered!

It's been so exciting to be here - just minor near death experiences in taxis and a somewhat questionable "tropical show" last night prove to spice things up. Let's just say taxis aren't shy about crossing four lanes of oncoming traffic and an ambulance in a tiny four-door... and when people here say "tropical show" I guess that could mean anything, the least of which is taste and of a conservative mind. We're pretty sure this tropical show isn't quite the thing to suggest for our 300 delegates from around the world.

Oh, there'll be many more stories, I'm sure, but MY OH MY has time flown. I simply haven't been out exploring and probably won't get a chance to, but hopefully when I come back in May there might be some spare hours to look about...it is quite stunning the view into the sea.

PS I also quickly toured the Colonial Zone where Columbus first landed - the first street, cathedral and university in the New World. Completely opposing the historical and toursit significance, we spoke with a local pastor who had a refreshing and bold passion for the colonial influence here and in Latin/South America... also a story for another time.

Praise God for the work here, for productivity, for His beauty, and his grace in allowing us a part!

Monday, November 20, 2006

No such thing as coincidences

I did watch Amadeus. I think I will probably watch it again soon. It's a thinker, that one is.

Before I get too far and this gets depressing I have to say: I'M HEADED to the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!! This isn't a far off dream and most certainly not a coincidence. This is the very blessed hand of God at work and for some reason unbeknownst to me, I get to be a small part of His big process.

After Thanksgiving, I will fly with my boss and another colleague to meet with our Partner in the DR to continue planning for the Global Conference coming up in May 2007. I am beside myself with excitement, and, were it not for the e-itinerary I have in my inbox, I would complete deny that it would ever happen.

Yet, there the email sits! I don't know how, but I'm on a flight Sunday, Nov. 26 to Santo Domingo.

Shoot, I definitely thought I had more time.... but I'll have to finish my thoughts on Amadeus later.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Where I've been for the past weeks...

I just realized how absent it might seem I've been. Mostly due to busyness, I suppose.

But, some exciting things have happened, including my family visiting last weekend! After a most crazy and stressful week, my family road-tripped to the city for a short weekend. We navigated public transit, went to an eclectic (and colorful) place for breakfast, ate Chicago style pizza, and did just the right amount of walking to enjoy the city.

We even spent some time in my apartment just enjoying company - exchanging pictures and watching the Music Man in slide show form (that man seriously needs to think about buying a video camera!)

I'm not sure, but I think mom got enough standard "pretend like this is natural" shots on her camera, so I'm anxious to see those. My brothers - I'm not sure, but I don't think I could be family with boys that are much cooler. Will and I stayed up late talking on Friday and I can NOT wait for him to come back through town with his two friends and Christina in tow this Tuesday!

James... I guess that thing called growing up (he's already accomplished it in the vertical sense) is happening to him... I'm waiting to see when he realizes it's not just a phase. :)

My parents are great - they brought some true, Iowa love to my streets. To all of you nay-sayers of city-friendliness: I get it from my parents!! It was truly lovely!

All that said... I have to return to what was stressing me out the week prior. At one point I called my grandparents in exasperation. Seasoned with (now veteran) understanding that God would provide and perseverance would produce beautiful blessings, I told them about my impossible task and project.

Only because I thought it so dear that my grandpa remembered this will I share the story:
"I remember seeing a little girl with two five-gallon buckets, near full, hobbling along. I looked down at her and said, 'Don't you think you should try taking one at a time?' She looked back up at me and said, 'Well, then I wouldn't get any stronger, would I?'"

Yep, that was stubborn little me. I'm sure my unruly blonde hair and petite frame betrayed my confidence, but I'm sure in my mind I was completely serious. Now, I'm convinced all that determination only produced back problems... but my grandparents' encouragement was sweet honey to days of seemingly vain toil.

UNTIL... on Tuesday I received an email from my boss while I was in Virginia. Her boss had just finished the presentation (that I'd been working on) to rave reviews! It did, indeed, turn out to be beautifully blessed and I am so thankful.

I must get back to my work or I'll be backed up when I arrive tomorrow!!

Salieri and Studentdom

If I had a to-do list that held any kind of real weight in my life, I would write in bold, capitals WATCH AMADEUS. I’ve just returned from a design workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia. The trip was yet another journey into self-discovery and a brilliant respite from life in Chicago. Unfortunately, I have no eloquent reason to offer for not writing sooner. In fact, I was thoroughly disappointed in my less-than-ambitious use of free time in the well-preserved town where Jefferson is the claim to fame.
True to my “name,” I did wander about and enjoyed the downtown mall, brick streets, and used book shops. The price of food and entertainment has quite certainly kept up with the times and I daresay they are actually ahead of the ‘downtowns’ I’m used to.

But, that aside, I am such a jumble of jacks! Back to Salieri…
The workshop was hosted by a design company that works primarily with Christian non-profit clients (of which we are one). I hardly believed I was going until I rushed the Blue Line on Sunday to get to O’Hare.

I immediately felt comfortable and welcome in the house-converted-to-office just blocks from the adorable colonial inn where I was staying.

As I sat in the workshops, I found myself returning to my thoughts on the theology of work. The wonderful people at Journey very much incorporated these ideas into their interaction with the editing/designing world. One of the presenters used several references to the movie Amadeus, which follows the story of Salieri and Mozart. Salieri was a well-known composer of his time, but lacked the genius of Mozart to create new, inspired music. He tells the story of his failures as Mozart’s music eventually crowded out Salieri and his mediocrity brought depression and jealousy.

The journey presenter said at one time, “Basically Salieri could recognize genius but couldn’t create it.” I’ve always known the story of Mozart, but never in this context (I know – where’s my mother’s influence on this one, right?). I was at once captured by the philosophy and theology behind this rivalry.

Though we can never truly be creators, God’s creativity can flow through us into astounding portraits, prose, and pieces of music.

What will we settle for? God desires nothing less than excellence.
Again I go back to C.S. Lewis’ frustrated assertion that we are content to play in mud puddles when we could be vacationing on the shores.

I felt so blessed to also have had the chance to talk to several experienced and wise professionals. I sorted through options and explained my odd peace about graduating without a five-year plan. They were all very encouraging and their own stories evidenced once again the blessings that come through obedient steps of faith.

I thought this little anecdote pushed perpetual studentdom past a graduation date:

Once, while giving a lecture at a seminary, Billy Graham was asked a pointed question by a student. “Why,” he began, “with the horrible state of the world, should we stay in school instead of jumping into the field?” Dr. Graham told the class about the wisdom of the woodsman who took the time each morning to sharpen his ax before he went into the forest to cut down trees. He then turned to the student and said, “Sharpen your ax.”

Can you imagine cutting a tree with a dull ax? I think I’ve tried it before and the tree still stands, stubborn thing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

transportation and winter

After coming back from Iowa’s open spaces, a study on transportation is more than appropriate. Moments after I touched down, I was in a car – a vehicle completely controlled by the driver, who could direct it at whatever speed and in whatever course she so desired. The context was familiar, but I had never wondered at the concept until I was dependent on public transportation for two months. The philosophy of jumping behind the wheel has all sorts of implied power wound up in its gears.

My experiences with transportation in the city have been mostly good. I say ‘mostly’ because I did write not too long ago about the almost-pick pocket at an el station.

The entire system of public transportation forces a kind of community you may not find passing people on the yellow dotted line, each in their own steel cages along a highway. Two things are especially interesting to me about this community 1. It is forced and 2. people appear to grasp for invisible cages to separate certain circles from other certain circles.

Actually, if I was interested in a third thing, it would be the fluidity with which it moves – all parts acting in a sort of disjointed, symbolic symphony of how life is lived together. You have the homeless woman in the back corner of the bus, clutching three bags and looking out the window every three seconds. You’ve also got the young businessman, checking his watch after adjusting the black leather briefcase slung around his back. You’ve got women professionals who sit or stand, sporting tennis shoes at the feet of tailored J. Crew pants or TJ Maxx bargains. You’ve also got the tourist, carrying at least three shopping bags, smiling to take in the newness of riding a Chicago city bus and occasionally checking the map tucked into their purse. You’ve got other regulars – students, workers, and roamers.

But, since I’m interested in the first two, I guess I’ll say something about that. There’s no way around public transportation. Everyone simply can’t own a car because it’s expensive and impractical. So, a mix of people find themselves in community for a period of time. There is sort of a public transportation face one puts on and it’s especially helpful with a personal music player. Once your personal world is established, not many people dare to knock on your door or open theirs. While many commonalities can be found and friendships forged if one is uber-persistent, the community that meets every morning, noon, and evening struggles against what the environment encourages: relationships.

That said, there are many exceptions. There is Chris… and George… and the Italian lady… and the 747 bus driver who takes the 3:17 route to Forest Park CTA (we’re good friends, but you know when it becomes awkward to ask someone’s name because you know each other?) Yep… there’s more, too. These people are open to the natural community these moving machines create.

I have only taken a taxi once. My grandpa was pretty concerned about me schlepping my baggage from Midway airport to the Orange Line, transferring to the Red Line, and walking about 4 blocks home. He said it would make him feel better if I took a cab. So, I did. It was pretty nice to watch everything at street level inside the safety and quiet. I had big ideas about making friends, which quickly vanished when my driver put in one of those cell phones you stick in your ear. The language (Arabic maybe?) was beautiful, but no friendship formed (it can’t happen all the time, right?). I actually did try to take a cab last night again. I was super, super, super tired after closing at Sullivan’s and I waited and waited for the Red Line and finally lost patience. I flagged a cab and told him where I needed to go. He thought for a moment and started driving. Passing the street we should have turned on, he said, “I’m going to go ahead because I don’t want to cross traffic to turn.” Thinking back, his concern was valid, but for the first time I assumed the negative – he wanted to drive around and bring up the bill.

So, I walked and I’m glad I did.

This is a lot on transportation. Too much? I don’t know. I’m just glad it’s Saturday and I’m taking deep breaths.

I remember winter. I guess I usually forget around fall. So wrapped up in the warm drinks, football games, and warmer clothes that I forget that winter wears an icy grin and blows a frigid breeze. I forget that leaving means putting on layers and always carrying chapstick. I forget that I have to put Kleenex in every bag and make sure I switch my gloves when I switch coats. I forget that having my ears covered is more than a fashion statement, but an effort to fend off frostbite.

I remember winter. Once I get past the shock, the season is alive with good, good things.